Small firms

First impressions? Top tips for creating a welcoming business reception

Bernadette Bennett, legal commercial manager at Moneypenny, explains how outsourcing can help law firms create a great first impression in their reception.

Last week I visited a well-known chain of hotels in London. Famed for their customer service, I was somewhat disappointed to be greeted by a slightly stressed receptionist who was struggling to both answer a ringing phone and deal with the long line of guests waiting to check-in. The result? Those of us in the queue were left feeling underwhelmed, undervalued, and in my case, in no hurry to rush back or recommend their service.

In contrast to this my taxi ride to the hotel had been fantastic. Friendly, knowledgeable and happy to help, the driver provided a great welcome to the city. These two polar experiences got me thinking about the importance of first impressions. We’ve all had good and bad encounters as a client or consumer and rarely do our opinions change once they’ve been made. It’s that old adage of ‘you only get one chance to make a good first impression’. Clichéd perhaps, but undoubtedly true.

The same can be applied to any walk of life -and particularly in law firms. A legal practice’s front of house is a vital part of its brand as it immediately defines the business and their relationships with their customers, right from the first moment of contact.

Of course, every firm has a different approach with regards to this; but getting the reception right is critically important if your organisation is to deliver an excellent service. Very few things can damage a brand like poor customer service, unanswered phones or mishandled enquiries.

In fact, research shows that 62 per cent of callers will not ring back if they hear an engaged tone, whilst 79 per cent say they won’t call back if their call goes unanswered. This clearly underlines the importance of good communication when it comes to protecting your brand.

Striking the balance between reception costs and maintaining an excellent standard of customer service though is a key quandary for many smaller firms. So how can law firms ensure their reception is making the best possible first impression? Here are three ways that outsourcing can help.

Focus on customer service

As my above experience illustrates, it’s simply not possible for even the best reception staff to do everything. Forward-thinking firms are increasingly recognising this, and as a result the traditional front of house role is changing dramatically.

Gone are the days, for instance, when seeing a receptionist sitting at the front desk juggling visitors with answering the telephone is the norm. Instead, smart companies are switching their attention to concierge-style ‘meet and greet’ lobby receptions, entirely dedicated to hospitality and providing visitors the best possible welcome.

This allows a separate group of receptionists in a different location - or even a digital switchboard solution -to provide the additional support required and ensure first class customer service is being delivered to both types of clients, at all times.

Increased flexibility

Typically most firms have a fixed, often small, number of employees to cover a particular business function. This makes dealing with unexpected peaks or troughs while still delivering service excellence difficult. In our world of telephone answering, for example, we know it’s all too easy for firms to miss telephone calls with staff on lunch, away on annual leave or off ill, thereby compromising client service and missing opportunities.

Likewise bad weather or an IT or telecoms failure can quickly lead to resourcing issues. This is where an ‘overflow’ outsourcing strategy can be invaluable. Having the security of an outsourced receptionist to answer any calls you aren’t able to reach instantly removes this risk of service levels dropping.

Access to ground-breaking technology and expertise Innovative technology is another key advantage outsourcing offers when it comes to rolling out the red carpet for clients. At Moneypenny we use pioneering software which allows our receptionists to identify regular contacts, who may be key customers. This not only saves the receptionist from having to confirm the caller’s contact details, but also helps build stronger business relationships.

In addition, individuals within a law firm are able to use our interactive smartphone app, which quickly and easily allows them to update their status. An easy way to ensure their receptionist is `in the loop’ in real time and can manage calls accordingly.

More than this though, engaging with an outsourced telephone answering service can also offer an in-house team or company instant access to professional and experienced staff. All the benefits of great new additions to the team without the employment headache.